Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Headcorn Oak, Kent

1) From the Village Tea Rooms (31-33, High St, Headcorn, Ashford, Kent  TN27 9NE      Tel: 01622 890682) walk west along the High Street. Where the main road bends sharp right, continue straight on along a narrow lane to the Church.

Headcorn is mentioned in a legal document of 724, by which time it was already a well established village. It is mentioned again in 785, but then vanishes from the written record until 1222 when a man named Henry of Ospringe was appointed to be the local vicar by no less a personage than King Henry II himself. Quite why the parish merited such royal attention is unclear, but Headcorn was obviously favoured as it was granted the right to a weekly market and annual fair by King Henry III. It was however the weaving industry that made Headcorn rich in the 14th century and which enabled the village to tear down its small 11th century church to erect the large structure to be seen today. Excavations have shown that the chancel of the modern church covers the whole of the old church, so the increase in size was massive. The south aisle and tower were added about a century after the main rebuilding.

Near the south door of the church can be found what remains of the Headcorn Oak. According to local tradition, King John sat in the shade of this oak tree to eat a lunch and watch bull baiting. Given that John reigned from 1199 to 1216, and that the tree must have been a fair size then, this oak must be very old indeed. In 1878 Robert Furley, a great tree expert of his day, took various measurements and concluded that the tree had been planted in about 700 or so. More recent estimates have disputed that the tree is quite that old, but it is undoubtedly ancient. Unfortunately the last signs of life from the ancient trunk came in the summer of 1996 and it is generally now considered to be dead.

From Teashop Walks in Kent by Rupert Matthews

No comments:

Post a Comment